Summary: As the Syrian crisis gets ever deeper, there is ongoing pressure for the UK to accept more Syrian refugees. Over 12.2 million Syrians need help in the country, of whom 7.6 million are internally displaced. 4.1 million Syrians have fled abroad, mostly to neighbouring countries in the region.
UNHCR is calling on the international community to provide places for 130,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. Just over 100,000 places have been offered so far.
Up until 29 January 2014, the Government’s policy was to be generous with humanitarian aid to Syria’s neighbours rather than to accept recognised Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK. However, the Government then decided to establish a ‘Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme’ (VPRS), in order to provide a route for selected Syrian refugees to come to the UK.
The scheme prioritised victims of sexual violence and torture, and the elderly and disabled.
The Government initially expected that several hundred refugees would arrive in the UK through the scheme over three years, although there was no fixed quota. The resettled refugees are given five years’ Humanitarian Protection status, with permission to work and access public funds. 216 people had been resettled in the UK under the scheme by the end of June 2015.
On 7 September 2015, the Prime Minister announced a significant extension of the VPRS.
The UK is now planning to resettle up to 20,000 refugees from the Syrian region over the next five years. However, the Government does not intend to offer resettlement to refugees already in Europe, or to participate in the refugee relocation schemes being developed by the EU. It argues that it is better to take the most vulnerable refugees directly from the region. The Government is working out the logistics of the extended scheme with local authorities and the voluntary sector. Although there is pressure to implement it as soon as possible, there are unresolved issues, including whether Central Government will cover the costs of the scheme after its first year.
It is also possible for Syrians to claim asylum upon arrival or after-entry to the UK. Almost 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum in the UK since the start of the humanitarian crisis (as at June 2015).
The UK Government continues to commit a significant amount of international aid to assistance programmes in the regions neighbouring Syria, arguing that this is preferable to encouraging Syrian refugees to make dangerous journeys to Europe. The UK is the second largest bilateral donor to the Syrian refugee crisis. A further increase in funding, announced on 4 September, takes the UK’s contribution to over £1 billion.
Regular updates on the UK’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis are being posted on the GOV.UK website.
A separate Library briefing, Migration pressures in Europe, discusses the EU’s general response to current migration flows to Europe from Syria and elsewhere.
Statistics on asylum, including statistics on the Syrian refugee crisis, are available in the Library briefing, Asylum Statistics.
4 Number 6805, 17 September 2015 file:///C:/Users/Sheila/Downloads/SN06805%20(1).pdf
17 September 2015
Richard Harrington will be responsible for coordinating and delivering work across government to resettle Syrian refugees in the UK.
The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Richard Harrington MP as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State jointly at the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the Department for International Development.
Richard Harrington will be responsible for coordinating and delivering work across government to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK, along with coordinating the provision of government support to Syrian refugees in the region.
He will report primarily to the Home Secretary, as chairman of the ministerial group on Syrian refugees, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as deputy chairman of the group.